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The Shape of Water

Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro has proven to be a master-craftsman. Overseeing such diverse movies like ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and the ‘Hellboy’ films, his attention to detail in creating wondrous fantasy worlds has been exceptional. He wants audiences fully invested in the visions he produces with ‘The Shape of Water’ another fine example. Solidifying Del Toro’s aims for consistent excellence in all areas of film-making, his latest adds to his reputation as an exciting story-teller.

Working in a top secret government underground laboratory during the Cold War in 1962, mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) goes about her duties. Her few friends include co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and Giles (Richard Jenkins). Reporting to the shady Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), Elisa’s world is turned upside down when she uncovers the facility’s secret. Discovering an alien being, her interaction with it changes the lives of those around her with the government stopping at nothing to prevent their secret from being revealed.

‘The Shape of Water’ is a masterful romantic fantasy told well. Del Toro’s experience in blending fantastical elements within real world settings reaches an apex. You shouldn’t be moved by this wafer thin romantic fable but you are due to the skilled writing and performances. Hawkins is amazing as Elisa, using movement instead of words to convey emotions. Her co-stars are equally excellent with the mix of CGI and actor for the alien ensuring this outlandish aspect works.

It’s Del Toro’s quirky touches making ‘The Shape of Water’ shine. The narrative never goes quite where you expect it, keeping you on your toes until the end. The story starts slowly but gradually pulls you in with its enchanting, elegant romance and mystical ambience. The cinematography and music are top-notch with the ode to classic movie musicals adding a special touch. It is evident great care has gone into bringing everything together into a satisfying package.

‘The Shape of Water’ is difficult to describe without spoiling anything so it’s best to enjoy it with fresh eyes. Those who allow themselves to be swept in the story will be rewarded with one of the classiest fantasy films of recent times. Del Toro has rarely made a bad movie, with ‘The Shape of Water’ yet more proof of an artist using the canvas of the silver screen to good use.

Rating out of 10: 8

The Post

The fact that ‘The Post’ is classified as an ‘historical drama’ is amazing and more so for those who lived through the period depicted. The 1970’s wasn’t that long ago but apparently it is for a slew of film-makers who have plundered the decade for stories. Having made his career during that time, director Steven Spielberg would know much about how the period affected people. Maybe that’s why ‘The Post’ works as it has an authenticity making it one of the most compelling films in the huge Spielberg cinematic catalogue.

Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is an editor for ‘The Washington Post’ newspaper. It’s 1971 with America in the midst of the era of President Richard Nixon. When confidential government dossiers dubbed ‘The Pentagon Papers’ are leaked, a crisis ensues. Detailing government cover-ups and lies during the Vietnam War, Bradlee seeks the support of the paper’s owner Kay Graham (Meryl Streep). Uniting to take on the government and publish the documents, war between politicians and the paper escalates with truth caught unwittingly in the middle.

In a current age of ‘fake news’, ‘The Post’ is a breath of fresh air. That may seem odd saying that about a story exploring an increasingly antiquated method of making and gathering news. But it works due to the integrity of its characters. Based on real people, you feel their pride in delivering the truth and doing anything to ensure those involved are protected. It also shines a light on equality with Graham a pioneering female newspaper owner willing to risk it all in a world dominated by male egos.

Not much extra can be said of Hanks and Streep as they provide their usual fantastic performances. Their co-stars are equally fine as real journalists who would have baulked at today’s often shonky ways of obtaining news. The courage of their convictions is starkly seen with passion in crafting quality news. The period detail and score are first rate with Spielberg taking his time to tell the story in an agreeably old-fashioned drama without the negative connotations associated with the term.

Steven Spielberg hasn’t lost his touch as ‘The Post’ is one of the best of his recent work. A powerful statement in freedom of the press and the high standards it can reach, it’s something many current journalists should live by. It may examine a period of history long gone but its lessons are still important where truth and fiction are often blurred.

Rating out of 10: 7